Mail on Sunday slams MPs claiming cycling allowance of 20p a mile - we take a close look at the figures

Six MPs claimed a total of less than £150 in 2012/13 - 6,000 times lower than the £880,000 claimed for motoring

by Simon_MacMichael   March 16, 2014  

Big Ben © Simon MacMichael

The Mail on Sunday has today taken aim at “freewheeling, freeloading” MPs who claim 20 pence a mile when riding their bikes on official business. But road.cc has found that in 2012/13, just six MPs made claims for travelling by bike, totalling less than £150 – compared to almost 40,000 claims for motoring expenses, amounting to nearly £900,000.

According to the Mail on Sunday, MPs are “at the centre of a new expenses row,” even though the politicians are perfectly entitled to claim the allowance, which is in line with HMRC rules and reflect wear and tear and the cost of maintaining a bike such as having it serviced.

Among the MPs to have attracted its ire are transport minister, Robert Goodwill, and shadow transport secretary, Mary Creagh.

Based on figures obtained from the Independent Parliament Standards Authority (IPSA), the Mail on Sunday identified Hugh Bayley, the Labour MP for York Central, as having claimed the highest sums over the past four years - £205 in total.

That should, however, be put into the context of the £98.1 million in total expenses claimed by MPs in 2012/13 alone.

Much of that aggregate figure relates to office and staffing costs, but amounts reimbursed for motoring mileage dwarf those for cycling.

Our research found £146.60 was claimed by six MPs for cycling either by themselves or their staff in 2012/13, with 79 separate claims submitted.

In contrast, there were nearly 40,000 separate claims by MPs for use of their own car personally or by their staff, as well as for parking. The total? More than £880,000.

In the case of Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith, we discovered that the amount he claimed last year for cycling was £30.60, compared to motoring expenses of £2,469.

The largest amount claimed for a single cycling trip during the year was £4.56 by Leicester East MP, Liz Kendall.

Mr Goodwill, who made just one cycling-related claim last year, told the Mail on Sunday: “I just put in a few claims to demonstrate that I use my bicycle for work. I actually made ten journeys last Thursday for votes between the Department for Transport offices and Parliament and I didn’t claim for those.”

The amount he claimed for that trip in 2012/13? 80 pence.

Ms Creagh made two claims during the same year, for a total of £1.80. She declined to speak to the newspaper.

The suggestion from the Mail on Sunday seems to be that the MPs claiming expenses are somehow on the fiddle, although given the amounts involved some might wonder whether the return justifies the effort.

And while Liam Fox’s claim of 3 pence in motoring mileage for a 100-metre trip attracted derision last year, claims for motoring expenses don’t seem to be attracting quite the same scrutiny, despite the amount of money involved being 6,000 times higher.

Mr Bayley explained to the Mail on Sunday why he claimed. “I use it to maintain my bicycles and I’ve spent a lot more than £200,” he said.

“I have two bicycles, one in my constituency and the other in London. It costs about £60 a year to put each through an annual maintenance check.”

One MP, the Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb who represents North Norfolk, claimed a total of £12.50 for bicycle use over the last four years, but told the Mail on Sunday he no longer did so.

“I concluded, I’ve got a bike, it’s not costing me anything so I just don’t claim any more,” he explained.

“I certainly think we should be encouraging MPs to use the cheapest mode of transport but I have myself chosen to do it without claiming now.”

Last December, former cycling minister Norman Baker, now at the Home Office, tried to decline the use of a ministerial car, saying he would rather use a “ministerial bicycle.”But civil servants told him it would be an “unacceptable burden” on the taxpayer, despite the department spending £136,000 a year on ministerial cars.

Before the 2010 General Election, then leader of the opposition David Cameron pledged to reduce the bill for ministerial cars by £6 million if he became prime minister.

Mr Goodwill, who was shadow transport minister at the time, said: “Unless they have a good reason – such as carrying lots of ministerial boxes or security – we will expect Tory Ministers to consider using bicycles to get around Westminster and Whitehall.

“Ministers can always put their paperwork in a backpack.”

 

Note: We looked at data from IPSA for 2012/13 relating to expenses claimed for use of own car or bicycle by MPs or their staff, as well as data for car parking. Some expenses related to cycling or motoring may fall under other headings, but those are the main ones.

42 user comments

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stumps wrote:
Why should they be allowed to claim for anything ? I expect the vast majority of people aren't allowed to claim for anything in their jobs. But i digress.

I claim expenses when I travel for work. I don't see why I shouldn't, and so I don't see why MPs shouldn't either (within reason of course).
Bikes have wear and tear same as cars, so why not?

posted by Chuck [368 posts]
17th March 2014 - 10:44

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WOW @ the articles comment section

posted by Scoob_84 [194 posts]
17th March 2014 - 10:45

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Personally I think we should pay people to cycle to work. The opposite of charging them to drive, if you like.

posted by Peowpeowpeowlasers [65 posts]
17th March 2014 - 11:01

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Toilet paper in non-story shocker.

posted by northstar [1100 posts]
17th March 2014 - 11:17

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I agree with the other posters. What is the problem here, and why is it news? If someone can claim back expenses for wear'n'tear on their car when they use their own car for business reasons, then why can't someone claim back expenses for wear'n'tear on their bike if they ride that for business?

The real scandal is that bikes got worn down by modern British urban streets far quicker than cars - perhaps we should be able to claim more for cycling for work, rather than less Thinking

I think the essential problem here is that the Mail cannot see that a bicycle is a valid mode of transport, or that it is anything other than a toy... hence their indignation. They cannot imagine that it wears down and gets repaired (just like a car), and in their mind, it's like someone claiming expenses for wear'n'tear on a teddy bear.

posted by brooksby [96 posts]
17th March 2014 - 11:19

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stumps wrote:
Why should they be allowed to claim for anything ? I expect the vast majority of people aren't allowed to claim for anything in their jobs. But i digress.

Sorry Stumps, I disagree on this. If an employee needs to visit other premises (that are not classified as their base location), then they are entitled to claim mileage in the same way. As much as the MP expenses thing does appear to be just a massive bonus scheme, the mileage amounts are the HMRC values.

That said, I'm self-employed and could claim for my 7-mile-each-way run to the office, but I don't bother when on the bike, or (rarely) in the car. Basically it's a fair bit of admin for small beans in return.

As for the mail, this story is like arguing about the formation of deck chairs on the deck of the titanic...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
17th March 2014 - 11:33

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I would have thought the bigger "scandal" was the fact that some employers pay a premium mileage allowance for employees with larger engines
As reported here on 28/02 Leeds pay an additional £420K to employees by means of a 65p per mile allowance rather than a the HMRC standard 40p

To me this appears to be a tax free backdoor subsidy for employees who do a bit of travelling and feel a larger vehicle would massage their egos..no doubt kept in place as more management types benefit from the policy?

From this perspective paying someone 20p a mile to travel and the associated benefits for the employee and society seems a bargain

posted by RedfishUK [48 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:10

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I normally use asterisks, a spoonerism or a deliberate mis - spelling of the word but...

The Daily / Sunday Mail. What a bunch of cunts they are.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:11

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What a load of tosh.

Still I expect they have some pictures of Myleene Klass/Kelly Brook/whoever in their underwear/bikini by way of compensation for not being a newspaper.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [378 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:24

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There's clearly no intention for this to be "news". It's just propaganda designed to increase hatred towards two of society's scapegoat groups - politicians and cyclists...

One thing you'll notice about all the anti-cycling propaganda is how none of it is supported by any facts (road tax, 2-abreast, helmets, hi-vis, riding in the gutter etc)

The Daily Mail knows exactly what it's doing when it publishes stories like this. Sadly, there seem to be enough people who're gullible enough to take it in...

Although seeing so many people commuting this morning and out riding in the sunshine yesterday, I think they've backed the losing horse on this one...

posted by Brooess [18 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:24

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notfastenough wrote:
That said, I'm self-employed and could claim for my 7-mile-each-way run to the office, but I don't bother when on the bike, or (rarely) in the car. Basically it's a fair bit of admin for small beans in return.

Is this your own office or someone else's (a client's) office? If it's your own I'm pretty sure you can't claim anything. Not that you do, anyway, of course, which makes the point somewhat moot Nerd

posted by David Portland [88 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:32

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Meanwhile, flowers bloom, people chat and cats meow.

The DM says its all death and despair.

And the things to get really angry about get ignored.

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
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posted by aslongasicycle [301 posts]
17th March 2014 - 12:57

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David Portland wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
That said, I'm self-employed and could claim for my 7-mile-each-way run to the office, but I don't bother when on the bike, or (rarely) in the car. Basically it's a fair bit of admin for small beans in return.

Is this your own office or someone else's (a client's) office? If it's your own I'm pretty sure you can't claim anything. Not that you do, anyway, of course, which makes the point somewhat moot Nerd

It's a client's office, but a moot point as you say.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:00

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It's the Mail on Sunday / Daily Mail. Poisonous idiocy. That's what they do. No point engaging with that lot.

posted by vbvb [234 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:01

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Moats don't fill themselves, we've got to take what we can these days.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [296 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:27

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RedfishUK wrote:
As reported here on 28/02 Leeds pay an additional £420K to employees by means of a 65p per mile allowance rather than a the HMRC standard 40p

To me this appears to be a tax free backdoor subsidy for employees who do a bit of travelling and feel a larger vehicle would massage their egos..no doubt kept in place as more management types benefit from the policy?

It's not tax-free, or at least if it is it means someone is breaking the law! The excess over the HMRC rates is taxable. The approved rate for car mileage is 45p/mile, so that means 20p per mile should be taxed.

posted by HKCambridge [130 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:31

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just in the interest of political balance the Mirror also carried this story.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mps-claim-expenses-cycling-work-324...

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posted by joemmo [797 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:35

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Ok folks, using my professional analysis skills I have carried out a detailed study of the 20p per mile allowance.

I can conclude beyond doubt that it is wholly appropriate.......providing the following assumptions are applied.

An MP is riding a bike worth at least £2500
-Of course they are, they have money to burn, most are known to buy a colnago c59 and use it for only a week before giving it away to some street urchin.

An MP is wearing top end rapha kit
-Of course, are you implying an MP would be seen in Aldi kit? Special edition pin stripe kit with triple enforced gusset is the only way.

An MP is unable to repair their own bike and must seek professional services.
-Of course, they are fucking useless at everything else, why would this not extend to simple bike maintenance.

An MP needs to replace brakes and tyres on a regular basis.
-of Course, they are all overweight rim bending chunksters who burn through brake blocks, wheels and vittoria tubs like they are going out of fashion

An MP is a finely tuned machine that requires optimum nutrition intake.
-Of course, swan and pheasant power bars don't grow on trees.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [296 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:48

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Agree with most of the above - you're allowed to claim mileage allowance to cover maintenance. I'd far rather they claimed bike allowance than car allowance.

Wonder if the smaller claims are simply made so that there's an audit trail "proving" that a cycle to work bike had indeed been used for cycling to work?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [826 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:50

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I think MP's should be entitled to claim for underwear wear. It must be a huge financial burden; all that talking out of their arse must place a huge strain on these garments.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [296 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:53

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OK. 3 mile journey to a meeting.

Taxi - £12?
Tube - £3.20
Bike - 60p
Ministerial car - £100s

Which would that stupid rag of a newspaper prefer the MP charged? There is wear & tear on a bike.

posted by Joelsim [1218 posts]
17th March 2014 - 13:57

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Scoob_84 wrote:
WOW @ the articles comment section

NEVER read the comments. Perfect way to ensure brain damage.

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posted by zanf [484 posts]
17th March 2014 - 14:10

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zanf wrote:
Scoob_84 wrote:
WOW @ the articles comment section

NEVER read the comments. Perfect way to ensure brain damage.

They just reaffirm my view that there are a *lot* of morons in this world...

posted by parksey [216 posts]
17th March 2014 - 14:43

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joemmo wrote:
just in the interest of political balance the Mirror also carried this story.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mps-claim-expenses-cycling-work-3249393

Of which the best one is this:

"they don't cycle fast enough to work up a sweat so how can they claim the same as someone with a car"

Eh?! Honestly, I ask you... At Wits End

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
17th March 2014 - 14:55

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Scoob_84 wrote:
WOW @ the articles comment section

I'm not going to sink to giving the Volkischer Beobachter its clickbait so I won't see the comments but I can guess.

However it is not just the Mail carrying this story - it was in the Sunday Mirror as well. the relatively few comments that had been left by yesterday morning when I was looking at the article online suggested that readers were saying "£146? So what is your point?" I was tempted to comment on journalists' legendary propensity for dodgy expense claims but frankly I have better things to do with my time.

posted by Paul M [309 posts]
17th March 2014 - 15:19

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Cycling is cheap but it isn't free either. HMRC let's you claim over 40p a mile for car journeys. That's not just for fuel but is supposed to represent the actual cost of driving. Depreciation, servicing, consumables etc.

HMRC needs a figure like that for cycling.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [574 posts]
17th March 2014 - 16:27

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No, idiocy is what I do, trolling them with common sense to see if I can get banned again!

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posted by pakennedy [47 posts]
17th March 2014 - 19:34

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OI. Stop it you lot. I'm playing with the commentors and I keep getting upvoted!

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posted by pakennedy [47 posts]
17th March 2014 - 19:37

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I agree with Paul M. I claim 20p per mile for a 10 mile each-way commute, for a total of about eighty quid a month. It's enough to cover wear and tear on parts, plus sundries like chain lube, but I do my own spannering and doubt it would cover the weekly drivetrain degrease/re-lube lube that is required during winter, were I to rely on a shop.

posted by srchar [55 posts]
18th March 2014 - 17:50

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HMRC do have a cycle allowance, and it's 20p a mile tax-free and for an unlimited number of miles and has been for many years.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/rates/travel.htm

It's got nothing to do with civil servants or MP's either, any employee of any company using their own bike for work journeys (not to get to work) can and should be able to claim.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/mileage/employee-factsheet.pdf

This was just typical Daily Mail garbage.

posted by snowbusiness [2 posts]
18th March 2014 - 19:45

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